Breaking Ban: Belgium’s Ineffective Gambling Law Regulation of Video Game Loot Boxes

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Loot boxes in video games are gambling-like mechanics that players buy to obtain randomised rewards of varying value. Loot boxes are conceptually and psychologically similar to gambling, and loot box expenditure is positively correlated with self-reported problem gambling severity. Citing consumer protection concerns, the Belgian Gaming Commission opined that such mechanics constitute gambling under existing law and effectively ‘banned’ loot boxes by threatening criminal prosecution of non-compliant companies implementing paid loot boxes without a gambling licence. The effectiveness of this ban at influencing the compliance behaviour of video game companies (and, by implication, consumers’, including children’s, exposure to and consumer protection from loot boxes) was assessed. Paid loot boxes remained widely available amongst the 100 highest-grossing iPhone games in Belgium: 82.0% continued to generate revenue through a randomised monetisation method, as did 80.2% of games rated suitable for young people aged 12+. The Belgian ‘ban’ on loot boxes has not been effectively enforced. Although the initial imposition of this measure promoted public discussion and debate about loot box regulation (both domestically and internationally) and likely provided better consumer protection in relation to specific games operated by well-known companies, an unenforced ‘ban’ has many negative consequences, including (i) giving consumers, parents, and policymakers a false sense of security and (ii) allowing non-compliant games to replace games that have been removed from the national market by more socially responsible companies. Indeed, even an effectively enforced ban has potential disadvantages. Finally, technical measures taken by companies to comply with the ban were easily circumvented, and some highly dedicated players (who are likely to be the highest spending and most vulnerable) could reasonably be expected to do so. Therefore, the complete elimination of the loot box mechanic from a country may not be practically achievable. Belgium should re-evaluate its regulatory position. A blanket ban approach to loot box regulation cannot be recommended to other countries. Other less restrictive approaches to loot box regulation should be considered. Preregistered Stage 1 protocol: (date of in-principle acceptance: 7 April 2022).
Original languageEnglish
Article number57641
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Breaking Ban: Belgium’s Ineffective Gambling Law Regulation of Video Game Loot Boxes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this